Board Proposes School Consolidation

Jenna Gyimesi, News Editor

The wear on Eastwood Elementary, Prospect Elementary, Langston Middle School, and Oberlin High School over the years has prompted the Oberlin Board of Education to propose the construction of a $36 million building to house the students of all four schools. The idea has been up in the air for nearly a decade, but it never became a real possibility until recently.

The plan is partially incentivized by the prospect of long-term financial gain, both in maintenance and efficiency costs.

“A study done about a decade ago explored the age of our current buildings and enrollment and proposed several suggested facility plans to consider,” Oberlin City School Board President Anne Schaum said. “Among other things, the analysis demonstrated that the buildings were likely to need significant repairs in upcoming years, and the district could save about $1 million per year if we built a new [pre-K to 12] facility.”

Schaum added that much of the savings would come from a reduction in energy maintenance costs and that the expected costs of maintaining the four aging buildings would exceed the costs of constructing the new facility in the coming years.

Langston was constructed in 1923, Eastwood in 1955, and Oberlin High and Prospect in 1960. Renovations, excluding the high school, are estimated to cost between $15 million and $43 million to meet Ohio Facilities Construction Commission Standards. According to Superintendent David Hall, the new campus would cost approximately $36 million in total.

The proposal has been a work in progress.

“We were ready to move ahead years ago but found out that we were not going to get the funding we anticipated receiving from the state of Ohio as quickly as we had been told,” Shaum said.

Many Oberlin residents fear the new facility’s price tag may raise taxes and discourage outsiders from moving into Oberlin. However, Hall said that he believes most community members think the educational benefits of a new building will outweigh the price of constructing it.

“Community members are concerned about the financial aspect, but they want the best interests of our students as well,” Hall said. “I think we have their support. We just want to make sure it’s something we can afford to do as a community.”

Hall added that the district would get upgraded technology and facilities, including larger, air-conditioned classrooms and additional technology centers.

“We would be able to do more collaborative learning and have better classrooms and learning labs,” he said.

Operations Manager Dan DeNicola agrees that it is time to say goodbye to the deteriorating schools.

“The buildings are not unsafe, but they are getting close to the end of their usable life,” he said. “Staff members have done a good job of maintaining them, but like your house, buildings start to age. They are safe and useful, but they need some work done. I am not sure exactly how much [work needs to be done] at this time.”

Schaum said she thinks a new school would appeal to more than just current Oberlin students and families.

“New facilities would not only allow us to operate more efficiently, but would also enable 21st-century educational practices in a more flexible setting,” she said. “It is our hope that the new space could be used by community groups. We hope that new facilities would help attract more families to the district.”

Before the proposal becomes a reality, the school board is seeking more community input.

“The board made a great decision by listening to the community before they made a decision,” Hall said. “We want to do the right thing and make sure it’s the right thing for our students and our community. We want to make sure that our students are ready for 21st-century learning, and a new building may help equip them to become future professionals.”

DeNicola has requested an updated study from Ohio state officials. The results of the study and state standards will be presented to the school board some time in November, when the discussion is expected to move forward.